December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas, everyone!!!  It's been a hectic holiday season, but I hope you know that my friends and family are always on my heart and in my mind.  Just because I didn't send traditional Christmas cards this year, doesn't mean I'm not thinking of you!  

While the recession has hit closer to home this year, I'm confident there's a bright future in store for 2010 and have much to be thankful for this year:
  • I've enjoyed quite a few trips to Indiana and Ohio to celebrate holidays, birthdays and my parent's 30th wedding anniversary.  (We pulled off a surprise - and for that I'm so proud!!!)  
  • I left the West Loop and my roommate Jaci to venture out to Ukrainian Village, a neighborhood west of downtown.  In addition to an unobstructed view of the Chicago skyline from the shared rooftop and four times the space I had the last time I lived alone, I'm just one bus away from the office, which is about 2 miles to the east.   This place feels like home, and if you follow this blog much, you know I've always got a home decorating project in process to make this vintage apartment be a true reflection of me! 
  • I'm also much closer to Covenant Presbyterian Church, which I joined this spring.   It's a PCA church with a smaller, but young, vibrant church family  and I've met a lot of great friends there over the past year and have enjoyed getting together weekly with my small group.  
  • I survived - and really enjoyed helping to plan - my first high school reunion.  I still can't believe it's been 10 years!!!  
  • As you'll see from my blog, I'm still enjoying photography and sewing, and do both whenever I get the chance!
  • And while I may not have found "the one" yet, I'm constantly surrounded by the best friends and family a girl could ask for. 
Well, that's an update from Chicago (via Indiana).  I hope you're all having a wonderful Christmas!  I hope to hear from you soon and now that I have a guest room, you're welcome to come for a visit any time!!!!  

I've selected a few highlights of the past year in photos - please view the electronic holiday card below and enjoy! 


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December 18, 2009

'Twas the night before this girl left for Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was sleeping, not even a mouse.  (Oh heavenly Father, may there not really be a mouse....)  

The Christmas movies were on and the sewing machine, too.  Mamaw and Papaw's gifts needed to be constructed from scratch, oh gosh how did it get to midnight?  Boo!  

First up, Mamaw, the hand-quilter extraordinaire!  

I used Heather Bailey's pattern and set to work with just a few minor adjustments to her directions.  (I attached the interfacing before cutting out the pieces - seemed like a time-saving idea to me!)

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Each piece was sewn together with care, in hopes that the sewing machine would be fair!  

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Oh wait, oh no!  What did I forget?  Stuffing I thought.  "Oh crap!" was said.  Where can I find stuffing - oh yes, oh yes!  No worries, Cookie, we'll put ya back together in a jiffy. 

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After hand-sewing and stuffing, this present is a wrap.  I think it's time for a nap.  

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There's no rest for the weary, Papaw is next.  A gift from the heart, that's what grandpas love best.  The idea for this gift came from Tuesday's small group you see, my leader mentioned a hymn that I couldn't shake any better than a bee.  

"Love Came Down at Christmas" has meant so much to me this year.  I'm really done with the poem stuff, so here it goes.  I wanted to use my craftiness to illustrate the hymn.  So I pulled together Christmas scraps and found a heart pattern to match.  

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Some cutting and sewing and stitching later, and it was evident that it really would make a heart!

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Thanks to a Macy's sale on Thursday, this Martha Stewart frame was a steal, so I put the lyrics with a message right into the deal.  I hope he loves it because I sure do!  

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Now it's time to finish packing, then this elf is off to bed!  

December 16, 2009

Milly the Fourth Wise Man

When she's not planning an assassination plot against Mrs. Claus, Milly can be quite the angel!  She loves to sit on top of my radiator cover in the front of the house when she stays with me.  She keeps tabs on the street below and growls at litter and passersby.  I forgot to move my nativity, but she didn't mind.  In fact, I think she's doing a great job playing the part of the fourth wise man.... or maybe another animal onlooker paying respects to the Baby Jesus?  I'm not sure, but it was cute.  

Milly the Fourth Wise Man

December 8, 2009

Big News!!!!

It's my favorite day of the whole year!!! OK, ok, maybe my second-most favorite. But it's still an awesome day. Today Pantone announced their color of the year!!! What an awesome day for home design. I'm always curious to know what the experts think will be tops, and look back on the previous year to see if the last prediction was reflected in our tastes, preferences and ultimately our homes.

Drum roll please! The Color of the Year for 2010 is..... turquoise!

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They describe the color as inviting and luminous. Can't say I've ever used a lot of the hue, but I am fond of it. I think for a brief time in the early 90's I claimed it was my favorite color. (I had not yet discovered my affinity for white.) You can read more about it here. You can also see how excited other bloggers, specifically House of Turquoise, are here!

December 7, 2009

'Tis the Season

The View

It's that time of year, ya know, the BEST time of year for home decorating!!  I've accumulated quite the collection of ornaments, nativities, Santas and such.  Now that I have room for everything and then some, I'm yearning for a new tree.  Wouldn't an 8 footer look smashing in the living room?  I digress.  

I wanted to share a few of my favorite tricks of the trade.  Besides having a mom that loves to gift decorations every year, I have a few other tricks up my Santa suit to make a lot of bang for not much buck.  

1.  Wrapping paper and ribbon can make any year-round item a holiday decoration!  

Wall Presents
Exhibit A:  Inexpensive art canvases I purchased earlier this fall

Wrapping Paper Tray
Exhibit B: Serving tray 

2.  Ornaments in pretty bowls are classy, simple and spread a budget far, although I'd spring for the shatterproof ones next time!  

TV Cabinet

Even in the Kitchen!

Dining Room

3.  Have fun!  Not everything has to match.  This year I found a place for all those old decorations that remind me of special people and memories - and I think the result is eclectic, fun and homey.  


Built-in Unit

Christmas Tree in the Morning


December 6, 2009

Zoo Lights!

This year I not only made it to ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo once, but twice!  I went with my mom and Amy last Sunday, and this Saturday with my best friend and her little sister.  I had a great time both trips - a few animals, lots of Christmas lights and fun all around.  

As much as I tried, I don't think I got a winning shot for their photo competition, but these are my favorite shots:   

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December 3, 2009

Christmas Time!!!

I broke my cardinal rule.  I'm still on my laptop past 11 p.m.  I owe photos of the Christmas decor, but alas, I didn't get around to it before the Christmas tree timer turned itself off an hour and a half ago.  I've been busy.  But, one of my favorite bloggers, It's Almost Naptime, invited her readers to fill out this little Christmas-themed get-to-know-you-survey, and what's better to do at 11:30 at night on a Thursday than a survey?  I just don't know.  

Here goes!  

1.  Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?  Hot chocolate.  White hot chocolate.  Citrus-infused white hot chocolate..... with Grand Marnier.  Better than 99.9 percent of beverages on the planet.  

2.  Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?  Oh, Santa wraps.  Santa wakes up at the crack of dawn the day after Christmas every year to knock over old ladies at the local Hallmark to get the good paper with the grid on the backside 60 percent off.  Bows too.  Santa loves some bow action.  

3.  Colored lights on tree/house or white?  White lights all the way.  It's my favorite color, so this shouldn't even be a question.  

4.  Do you hang mistletoe?  Well, are you bringing eligible bachelors to my house to make it worth tracking down live mistletoe in downtown Chicago?  If so, I'm on it.  If not, why bother?  

5.  When do you put your decorations up?  Traditionally the tree gets set up before I head to Indiana for Thanksgiving.  The decorations and ornaments go up the night I get back.  This year I got busy early.  I couldn't help myself.  Christmas cheer was just what the doctor ordered.  

6.  What is your favorite holiday dish?  Mrs. Flint's Christmas cookies.  My mouth waters just thinking of them, and Mom #2, don't you forget you promised me that if I walked down the aisle you'd fork over that recipe.  

7.  Favorite holiday memory as a child?  Christmas Eve's were always special for my brother and me.  Our church does a beautiful midnight service, and the children's choir used to sing Silent Night a capella (in German, then English) as a totally dark church lit up one by one in candlelight from the single flame created by the birth of Jesus leading up to the organ and the entire church filled with people busting into Joy to the World with candles in hand.  Beautiful moments in my polyester choir robe, let me tell you.  

8.  When did you learn the truth about Santa?  I don't really remember.  I don't think I was all that surprised.  I had my suspicions.  I'm pretty sure I faked it for a few years to ensure Santa still brought presents and to not let down my big brother.  Poor guy tried really hard to keep me believing.  I think he was worried about present intake, too.  

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?  Per #7, Christmas Eve was special for us because we got to celebrate it at home.  Christmas and all major holidays were spent at the car obeying grandparental wishes.  Christmas Eve was OURS!  At our house we would eat a nice dinner just the four or us, watch "Christmas Vacation" and my brother and I would open up our gifts from each other before heading off to church.  Now we do everything but the presents.  Good times!  

10.  How do you decorate your Christmas tree?  I like to set up the tree and put the lights on one day, then go back for the fun stuff later.  I have a ton of ornaments and pile them on and finish with my Martha Stewart garland I bought five years ago by undressing the model tree at K-mart.  I love that garland.  I wasn't leaving without it.  

11. Snow!  Love it or dread it?  LOVE IT!  I don't have a car, I rarely drive, and I live in Chicago.  Girl's got quite the winter wardrobe.  Let it snow, baby!!!!

12.  Can you ice skate?  Why yes, I can.  The Miami University hockey team was cute, therefore I had motivation to get to the closest ice rink growing up.  

13.  Do you remember your favorite gift?  My dad bought me a Minnie Mouse watch when I was in elementary school.  It wasn't something I really remember wanting, but my mom told me he picked it out himself.  The fact that my dad actually went into a retail store between Thanksgiving and Christmas to purchase something?  Priceless.  I'm such a daddy's girl. 

14.  What's the most important thing about the holidays for you?  It's a time when people are nice to each other and are cheery.  I love it.  I don't know if it's the last minute worries about Santa's naughty list or people genuinely bursting with joy over the birth of Jesus, but again, I have my suspicions.  

15.  What is your favorite holiday dessert? Mrs. Flint's Christmas cookies.  Duh.  

16.  What's your favorite holiday tradition?  There are a lot of new traditions for me - Black Friday shopping with mom, Butch McGuire's tacky Christmas beers, ZooLights, but every single year, no matter what, I see the Joffrey's Nutcracker ballet.  In fact I went alone last year, and I'll do it again!  It's not Christmas without the Nutcracker.  

17.  What tops your tree?  A big fat bow I made myself.  Someday I'll get around to making an angel, but until then, it's a bow.  

18.  Which do you prefer, giving or receiving?  Love giving, hate financing the giving.  Love giving.  Receiving is good too.  I'm not going to lie.  But I love giving a good, thoughtful gift - frustrating when I can't think of the right thing, but when you get it right - nothing better!!  

19.  What is your favorite Christmas song?  "O Holy Night" has always been a favorite, but there are too many for words.  I love 'em all.  The Christmas iPod playlist is in full effect.   

20.  Candy canes:  yuck or yum?  Yuck.  I don't care for peppermint.  

21.  Favorite Christmas show?  Tough one!  The Charlie Brown Christmas special probably tops the list, next to "Christmas Vacation." 

22.  Saddest Christmas Song?  "Nuttin for Christmas."  I'm kidding.  Sad Christmas song?  Sentimental teary-eyed songs, sure, but nothing sad.  I'm getting tired now.  Time for bed!!

November 29, 2009

Christmas Memories

Ah, the annual Christmas card photo. Every year my mom would comb our hair and make us put on our Sunday best. We were told to smile and pretend we liked each other for long enough to snap a good Christmas card photo. There were typically pinches and punches and screaming involved - standard when my big brother and I had to be within a few feet of each other. To make matters worse, Mom typically procrastinated or we ran away every time she mentioned it, and we got around to taking a good photo halfway through the Advent season - and Christmas cards arrived with holiday greetings around New Year's.

Today Christmas card photos are a lot less hassle. Digital photography makes it easier to know if you got a good shot right away, and developing and printing is almost instantaneous. You know what else will make them a breeze for Chicago folks? If you're running behind or don't have any ideas on where to take this year's Christmas card photo for you or your family, I'll do them for you for a nominal fee. (And I gladly accept payment via gift card.)

Here some of my favorite shots from the past:

Christmas Card 1981

Christmas Card 1983

Christmas Card 1985

Don't you want to capture memories like this for your family?

Happy Third Birthday to the Nephew (a day late)!!

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I meant to post this yesterday. Bubby, sorry for my tardiness! You can blame Grandma's visit to Chicago. We were busy buying you Christmas presents on Michigan Avenue, but I love you and am so thankful you're such a happy, healthy and adorable little boy!!!

November 25, 2009

Stalking Success!

I have a confession to make.  I've been stalking again.  Yep, almost every day for several months I've stalked Craigslist.  I've been desperately seeking a vintage footed dresser for my living room.  And you know what?  I found one! 

Latest Craigslist Find
This beauty happened to be in Gurnee, a northern suburb of Chicago, at a little vintage shop.  Although in great shape, it wasn't the color and feel I was looking for, but a little stripping and painting is no problem, right?  I thought, well, I could do it after the holidays, but why not ask the kind folks at Recovered Treasures how much they would charge to paint my new love for me?   Their response - $50!  What a deal.  (I'd spend more on drop clothes and supplies at ACE Hardware!)

I rented a Zipcar on Saturday to pick him up and run some other errands, and now thanks to my AWESOME neighbors Holly and Michael, he's sitting where he's always belonged.... in my living room!  He's smaller than the piece I used to sit my TV on, yet has more storage.  All in all, he's perfect.  Don't you agree?  
Vintage Dresser Find

You see, stalking sometimes reaps great rewards.  

November 23, 2009

Coming Up for Air

I haven’t abandoned blogging or quilting or crafting or decorating projects. Most importantly I haven’t abandoned you!

To say life’s been a little hectic of late would be an understatement. But I shouldn’t have ignored you for so long. I was reminded this weekend of the power of community – and how important it is to have friends nearby to help move a Craigslist find up to a second floor apartment, colleagues that do what they promise to do, and the fellowship of people who have the same beliefs and faith as I do. This blog plays into how I share with my community, so I’ll do my best over the next few days to catch you up on what’s been going on:

  • Latest Craigslist Find – the perfect mix of storage, style and TV stand.
  • Christmas Décor!!!! – It’s all up, baby and it looks great! Now all I need is a wreath for the door and to finish my Christmas tree skirt…
  • Shirden/Brock Family Vacay – I went to Disney and lived to tell about it!

November 3, 2009

Signs fall is definitely here… and almost over

The leaves are turning beautiful colors all around, but falling to the ground too quickly!

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The annual pilgrimage to Bloomington, Ind. has occurred, complete with 30th birthday celebrations, Pete Yorn at the Bluebird, a near-sighting of John Mellencamp at Malibu Grill and late-night Pizza Express breadsticks….

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And I can’t stop thinking about refinishing furniture…. Wouldn’t this look lovely white and be the perfect TV stand so I could move my console into the dining room where it belongs? I love Craigslist. (Sigh)

October 18, 2009

Crossed the Memo Board off the "Must Do" Memo!

Life seems to be moving at the speed of lightning lately - I can't seem to get much of anything done beyond the basics.  I had a long list of to do's last weekend, and yet, only a few things got done.  This weekend I've made a little more progress on that list.  One task was to finish this memo board for my friend, Amanda.  

She has an electrical box in an unsightly spot, but due to Chicago code, it had to stay.  But Chicago code (as far as we know) doesn't say anything about covering up the ugly box!  You've got to think outside the box sometimes to turn an apartment or condo into a home!!  We bought an inexpensive art canvas measured just the right size, selected fabrics that match her decor and I set to work with my staple gun.  Today I stapled on the ribbon from the backside, made fabric-covered buttons and sewed them on - voila (or "wala" as I prefer to say...)!  

Amanda's Memo Board

October 17, 2009

"It's a Great Wall Hanging, Charlie Brown!"

Mom's Halloween Wall Hanging
In one of the best seasonal cartoons of all time, Linus is convinced that there is a magical spirit that will appear on Halloween bearing gifts and glory to those who believe.  He stays behind while the other kids go trick or treating and celebrate their plunders with a party to keep watch in  a nearby pumpkin patch.  Poor Linus, the Great Pumpkin never comes.  But I had faith this year that my mom, now retired, would finish the Charlie Brown wall hangings she has had planned for, well, quite some time.  (Think several years...)  

Like Linus, I awaited somebody bearing gifts with great anticipation. (Read: I stalked the UPS man.)  Luckily I wasn't waiting for the non-existent Halloween spirit, and my mom really did send off a package complete with my favorite chicken soup mix and this great wall hanging!! 

I'm excited to finally have something on the wall above my console, even if it isn't a big flat screen TV.  I love it!  And now only is it cute, it's special because my momma made it, and two just like it hang on walls of loved one's back home.  

Halloween Decor 2009

October 11, 2009

Finally Frightening...

It's finally "spooktacular" around here!!  

I not only finished my Halloween table quilt, but I found my faux pumpkins in storage, bought some candy at the store and walked through the neighborhood enjoying all the neighbor's outdoor decorations.  (Ok, technically I was trying to get home from church despite bus delays due to the Chicago Marathon, but I did enjoy all the decorations along the way!!)  If there's one thing Chicago doesn't do big, well, it's certainly not Halloween.  People REALLY do Halloween around here - and now I'm doing a bit of my part, too.... inside anyways.  

What do you think?  

Halloween Quilt 1
Halloween Quilt 2

October 5, 2009

Quilting Goes Batty!

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I couldn't decide how to quilt my Halloween masterpiece - but my mom had a great idea!!  We used her fancy embroidery machine to quilt fun Halloween shapes all over it.  There are pumpkins, bats, witch's hats, scary cats and candy corns in black stitches all over it now.  It was really simple - I have to say her Brother machine is really nice!!  I would have taken more photos of the process, but Mom's sewing room wasn't ready for its Internet debut.  It's a work in progress, she says.  

Now I just have to hand sew the binding down on the back and it's ready for it's debut - stay tuned!  I hope to have it out and ready to roll yet this week, before it's too late!

After a DECADE...


I wasn't really excited about my 10 year reunion.  I felt obligated to help plan it, to go, to buy a new dress.  But you know what?  I LOVED it.  It was so great to catch up with old friends - and pick up even better than where we left off in a lot of cases.  I feel really, really blessed to have grown up with such great people.  All these girls pictured?  One I have known since I was 3... and probably 3 feet tall and still consider her one of my best friends 25 (ouch) years later.  One was in several of my very first dance classes and played flute with me.  One was with me when I went to my first fraternity party and the first time I t-p'ed a house.  One was my very best friend in kindergarten and first grade.  I still know her parents' phone number.  Pretty cool, huh?

There were a lot of friends that couldn't make it - some had to work, some were sick, one has passed away, but everybody was there in spirit.  It was a good night.  Thanks, Richmond High School Class of '99.  You can take the girl out of Indiana, but you can't take the Indiana out of the girl.  


September 28, 2009

Em in the A.M. - Supper Club: Brunch Style!

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Sunday I hosted three of my favorite couples for a brunch installment of our fun dinner club. I had a blast - and like any five course meal preparation with beverage pairings, I learned a lot!!

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Any hour spent with friends is happy hour.

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Ice cubes made from juice are a super-easy and super-impressive touch.

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Shredding onions in a food processor is quite likely my eyes' worst nightmare, but these potato pancakes were worth it!  

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Why do they call watermelons seedless when they have seeds, and why are seedless cucumbers so long and skinny?  Don't know, but watermelon gazpacho is good!  

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Tried and true recipes amidst new ones add strength to your bench.  Highly recommend throwing in an old fav.  These lemon ricotta soufflé guys are an old stand-by recipe I found in Glamour magazine years ago!!  

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Anything that starts with bacon and sausage and onion in a skillet has to be good.  Thanks, Paula Deen!

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Even if it doesn't look as good as a cookbook cover, doesn't mean it doesn't taste like it.  

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Great wine doesn't have to be expensive.  

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Always check to make sure your waffle iron works in advance, or you'll have to make ugly chocolate pancakes instead.  Oh, and be careful when you add Brandy to a bubbling hot mix of butter and sugar - WOOOOSH!!!

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When I die and go to heaven, all I'll ever need is citrus-infused white hot chocolate and God.  (And Grand Marnier makes everything better.)  

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Gale Gand's cookbook will change your life.  It already changed mine.  And I think it gave my friend a food coma.  
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